To get to the Villa Comunale, stroll across the Piazza to the upper left hand corner, and Via G. Bausan leads down to the middle of the park (see Mergellina for the rest of the story).
For Vomero, turn left out of the station, up Via Parco Margherita, and you will come to the Funicolare Chiaia. The last stop is in the heart of Vomero. Turning left out of the station, and left down the first street (Via Cimarosa) leads to the Villa Floridiana, an 18th century estate, home to the Museo Nazionale della Ceramica, the ceramics museum.
The estate occupies one of the prettiest gardens in Naples, a favorite spot for mothers and grandmothers to take the children for a stroll and for joggers. The view of Naples at the bottom of the garden is not to be missed. The museum itself houses one of the greatest collections of decorative knick-knacks in Italy. The museum is open Tues. – Sat., 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.; Sun. 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. and closed Mondays. Entrance is L4,000.
Turning right down Via Cimarosa is the Funicolare Centrale, which ultimately stops on Via Toledo, across the street from the Galleria Umberto I (this stop will be featured in its own installment).
For great shopping, past Via Cimarosa, up Via G. L. Bernini, is Piazza Vanvitelli. This piazza with its cafes and restaurants makes a great base camp for shopping forays in Vomero. Several small gallerias are located in the vicinity, each with its own selection of small shops, as well as independent shops along the streets radiating from the piazza. A left turn down Via Alessandro Scarlatti leads to two large department stores, Upim and Coin, located across the street from each other. Several banks dot the area for those running low on cash each with its own Bancomat (demands for the nearest ATM will draw blank stares from the locals). Bars and restaurants also dot the area, for rests between shopping sprees.
A right turn down Via Alessandro Scarletti ends in two sets of staircases, with the Funicolare Montesanto at the end. This station is close to the best spot in Naples for people looking for a view of the entire city (and then some). Around the left side of the station, Via Raffaele Morghen becomes Via G. D’Auria (a curious feature of Neapolitan streets; they don’t seem to have enough staying power to keep one name going), which ends at Via T. Angelini; and a right turn then leads to Castel San Elmo, a 17th century fortification. On the highest point overlooking Naples, the view from the ramparts is breathtaking. The castle itself does not have much to see, government offices occupy most of it, but the view is worth the L4,000 entry fee.
One of the more unusual features of Naples is visible from here. Looking towards Vesuvius, the “Spaccanapoli” cuts Naples in two. Spaccanapoli (Naples-splitter) is part of the original Roman street plan of Naples. No other Roman-occupied city has preserved its street plan as well as Naples, not even Rome itself. This section comprises the heart of the ancient city, giving a good idea of the layout of a large metropolis in ancient times, missing only the forums and temples.On the platform below the castle is the Museo Nazionale di San Martino, located inside a Carthusian monastery. The museum houses a comprehensive collection of presepi, the Neapolitan version of the Nativity Scene. The museum also houses other exhibits, all arranged around the Chiostro Grande. Unfortunately, parts of the site are still undergoing renovation due to the 1980 earthquake, making some exhibits off-limits. The museum is open Tue. – Sun., 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. Entrance is L8,000.
The entire complex is a marvel of Neapolitan Baroque, a virtual maze of small rooms, refectories and chapels large and small. Some of the renovated sections of the cloister have that baroque religious creepy feel to them, with dark paintings, marble inlay decorations, large vaulted ceilings and ponderous, dark wood decorations and furniture. The eerie enclosed garden (large cloister), with its large statues looming over visitors from the upper balustrade and the paths surrounded by marble bannisters topped with shiny marble skulls, completes the spooky effect (especially on an overcast day).
The museum section displays several aspects of Naples and Neapolitan society. Most popular with Neapolitans is the presepi section, showing every artifact that is a must have for any self-respecting Neapolitan nativity scene. Along with the Holy Family, Neapolitans of every aspect of life must be present, as well as beggars and dwarves (the “deformities” section of the display); Turks, particularly a Turkish band of musicians; and above all else, food, and tons of it.
The upper section has an interesting display chronicling the various kings of Naples beginning in 1790 until Italian unification, when Naples ceased to be an independent Kingdom. Also on display on a different upper section (the museum has a complicated layout) are various paintings of Naples and Neapolitan society. Some of the street scenes show how surprisingly little some areas of Naples have changed.
After the tour, a couple of restaurants are located right outside the museum, complete with view and a seat for the weary visitor.
Last edited on June 5, 2004